Kowloon Walled City/City of Darkness Revisited


Perhaps you remember the Q&A with photographer Greg Girard way back in Giant Robot 22. It delved into City of Darkness, the amazing coffee table book he made with fellow photographer Ian Lambot exposing the interconnected maze of adjacent buildings and connecting alleys that made up Kowloon Walled City. The ultra-dense city block was notorious among Hong Kongers for being separate from building codes and law enforcement alike, and was made famous in movies such as Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law. So I was stoked when Greg recently informed me that a redesigned edition of the book is in the works.


While locals didn’t seem to care much when when Kowloon Walled City was leveled in 1993 to make space for a shiny new airport, Greg says that he and Lambot have been impressed by “the unexpected ways in which it was turning up as an obvious inspiration in popular culture, and also being referenced in architecture, urban theory and other areas.” So on 20th anniversary of the demolition they decided to update and expand City of Darkness.

The revised edition will be 50 percent bigger than the original one (which was already a brick) and include never-before-seen photos as well as extra text derived from interviews with ex-cops who patrolled the area in the ’60s and ’70s as well as a government survey from the period which lists the exact number of brothels, opium dens, strip clubs, pornography theatres, and dog meat restaurants. Sounds amazing, right? Find out how to support the book–and perhaps get signed copy as well as an archival quality print–at the City of Darkness Revisited Kickstarter page.

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Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA


Last Friday, I attended the media preview for the Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA and it’s amazing–the biggest showing of the much-loved L.A.-based artist’s work ever. It started with an assortment of short speeches, starting off with new MOCA director Philippe Vergne calling it a homecoming after debuting at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and making stops in Paris and New York. Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts described the artist’s personal involvement in the show’s evolution and Ann Goldstein, the former director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and exhibition curator, added that the show began as related to theme but shifted to chronology upon the artist’s death in 2012.


MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson emphasized MOCA’s history of supporting the artist (who was part of the museum’s “First Show” and has been in almost 30 more including one that he curated) and added that the current stop includes a Chinatown-related piece that has never been shown in Los Angeles before. Framed and Frame (1999) is located on the upper floor, and challenges the audience with concepts of context but also alludes to the Downtown L.A. area’s punk rock history via sex and drugs paraphernalia mixed in with the traditional wishing well icons.


Another large piece is Kandors (2007-2011), a collection of sculptures of Superman’s hometown reimagined from various comic book pages. The reference to the alien city, shrunken by the iconic hero’s arch-enemy Braniac and kept under glass, is esoteric to many but is folklore to hardcore comic book readers. Kelley created a video installation mashing up the four-color hero with the goth poetry of Sylva Plath, but never realized his plan to introduce the Art Forum scene to the Comic-Con crowd online. (more…)

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Show reviews: Vandals and Descendents at Musink, Channel Three at The Redwood


It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was having lunch with my friend Joe, telling him that I bought a ticket to his band’s upcoming show with the Descendents. He asked if I was bringing my daughter Eloise and I said no way! I’d want to be in front where it’s packed with all these big sweaty gross guys. And then he said something like, “No, I’ll get you onstage where all the families and friends of the bands hang out. Wendy can come, too! I’ll put them on the list.”

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Tales of Print revisited: 20th anniversary of Giant Robot mag talk at GR2


First of all, thanks to Eric for making this 20th anniversary of Giant Robot talk happen. Can’t believe it was 20 years ago that we cranked out the first stapled-and-folded issue of Giant Robot and 4 years ago that the final glossy mag hit the newsstands. Coming back actually was a double homecoming for me since not only has the world gone on without the magazine for that long but the Giant Robot shop and gallery have soldiered on just fine without me! (Occasional blogging not withstanding.) So it was especially cool for me to be back on Sawtelle with Eric and so many collaborators and friends in attendance.

Of course, the event was a lot of fun. Eric and I have always made a great team not only making a kick-ass DIY magazine about Asian popular culture, but also giving talks about it. As usual, we shared stories about making the mag and pushing Asian culture, but this time we were able to point out friends in the audience who contributed words, photography, artwork, eyeballs, ad sales, and other forms of support from 1994-2010.

There was no need to encourage the crowd to apply the DIY aesthetic or punk rock spirit to what they love–as we used to do at colleges, museum, and other venues–because everyone in attendance was already an expert at that. Even the little kids who showed up, my 6-year-old daughter included.

I’d do a lousy job trying to recount what we talked about since we started off with an outline but went almost entirely freestyle. You’re better off listening to the podcast anyway. But I have been thinking a lot about what we didn’t get around to saying… How do I view the magazine in retrospect? How does making the mag echo in my life today?

The first thing that entered my mind when skimming back issues in preparation for the talk was that the topics of our articles were not obvious one. Especially in the early editions. Of course, underground, independent, and imported music, movies, and art were a lot less accessible back then but perhaps more importantly Asian culture was simply not cool in any way. We taste-tasted Asian hot sauces and canned coffee (with GWAR and ALL, respectively) before foodie culture existed. We wrote awesome articles about the Yellow Power Movement, Manzanar, and even rice cookers when Asians in America were written off as nerds.


Mixing everyday Asian American culture with ripping punk bands, radical skateboarders, Hong Kong movies at their peak, and up-and-coming artists was natural to us but unheard of for the mainstream, and predated the global shift from West to East. Art, design, entertainment, and business were based in Europe when we started but today everyone knows that the present and future depends on Asia for inspiration and growth. Don’t even get me started about Asian pop culture. We will never take credit for making the shift happen but our loyal readers were definitely on top of it.

So the rising costs of paper and postage, fall of advertisers and distribution in print, and advent of digital media aren’t the only factors that drove Giant Robot magazine into extinction. There is simply no longer a need for a champion of Asian underdogs since we’re on top now. We’re not the ostracized and overlooked punks and nerds anymore. In many ways, we’re the jocks.

Nonetheless, I’ll always savor the feeling of being two guys in a bedroom, and later a garage, attacking boring, mainstream culture by treating friends from the underground like Jon Moritsugu and Lance Hahn as if they were the most important filmmakers and musicians in the world, as well as then-obscure Asians for overseas like Wong Kar-Wai and Yoshitomo Nara as if everyone had seen all of their movies and been following their trajectory in art. Of course, every issue would have a dozen such nobodies that we would treat as heroes in our universe. Most of them are still excellent in obscurity.

Because we never thought of the magazine as a mirror to Asian America but as a place to share our favorite people and things, my life hasn’t changed that much outside of not making a magazine. The Friday and Saturday before the 20th anniversary talk, I attended concerts with The Vandals and The Descendents and then Channel 3 before making a visit to the current Nara exhibit–music and art that were in the pages of GR. It might have been Ice-T or Steve McDonald who said “Giant Robot isn’t a magazine but a scene.” And for me (and Eric, and many readers, I suspect) it’s still a way of life. I scarf the food, dig to the music, devour the movies, and check out the art shows. The only difference is that I stopped collecting toys and only buy old punk records.

Long live Giant Robot. R.I.P. to my favorite magazine of all time.

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An interview with Zhang Shouwang from Carsick Cars


Is Carsick Cars the biggest independent band in China? Possibly, and they’re probably the best-known Chinese band in the U.S. as well. With the gorgeous drone of the Velvet Underground, experimental edge of Sonic Youth, and a touch of Kraftwerk, the group has familiar (and impeachable) elements for Western ears. I saw them at Los Globos last week during their current North American tour promoting 3, the new LP engineered by Hamish Kilgour from The Clean and mixed by Sonic Boom from Spaceman 3. Afterward, I had a short conversation with the band’s founding member, guitar player, singer, and leader, Zhang Shouwang.

The new album sounds great and so did last week’s show. How has the new lineup’s sound developed since getting together?
We spent a long time to create the chemistry, learn, and record. I think because we spent so much time at it, we feel comfortable with each other. We’re very stable and the two new members bring a lot of fresh ideas.

You knew the guys before, right?
It’s a small music scene in Beijing, and everyone sees each other all the time. After the last Carsick Cars group broke up, I had already played for fun with He Fan from Birdstriking and it was very natural for him to play bass in the band. It took more than two drummers to find Houzi. The rhythm of Carsick Cars is simple, but it’s not like anyone can do it. The other drummers didn’t really know how and had their own style.

You always play with the coolest drummers.
Wang Xu in White+ is the best drummer in Beijing. Most drummers there just play rock but he pays everything, such as jazz. (more…)

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An unofficial 20th anniversary of Giant Robot magazine post

The 20 Years Art + Mag and SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot shows at GR2 and the Oakland Museum of California, respectively, are coming up soon and Eric has assembled stellar lineups that boast many of the biggest-name artists who have appeared in the magazine and galleries. So many familiar faces, such great talent. The twentieth anniversary celebrations of Giant Robot’s first issue will be a blast, and I hope that some of you are able to attend them.

While I have not been involved in either event in any manner—art galleries and art shows are for artists not editors, I understand—I’d like to recall some other folks who were essential to my favorite magazine’s 16 years of publication. (more…)


L.A. Heat: Taste Changing Condiments opens tonight at CAM with the inventors of Sriracha and Tapatio

On Tuesday morning, I got to check out a preview of the L.A. Heat: Taste Changing Condiments group show at the Chinese Museum. The impressive 30-artist lineup–which pays tribute to the Sriracha and Tapatio hot sauces that spread culture around L.A. and beyond–features many names that will be familiar to Giant Robot heads: The Clayton Brothers, David Chung, Kwanchai Moriya I grabbed a photo with contributing artist Michael C. Hsiung and co-curator/Interim Executive Director of CAM Steve Wong in advance of the packed opening.

Also present on press day were artists Trinh Mai, Michael Massenburg, and Ching Ching Cheng–each is as cool as her or she is talented. Tonight’s gala will be open to the public and will feature most of the artists as well as the inventors of the Southern California-based Sriracha and Tapatio, David Tran and Jose-Luis Saavedra, Sr. Excellent art, culinary legends, and a cool museum celebrating its tenth anniversary–check it out tonight in El Pueblo de Los Angeles, right across from Olvera Street!

Reception info -

Address -
Chinese American Museum

425 N. Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012




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Ultraman returns to the U.S.A.

Perhaps you were driving around the warehouses of Downtown L.A. or even Pasadena last November and thought you glimpsed Ultraman coming to the rescue of a motorist. You weren’t crazy and it actually happened! Next week, humankind’s champion from Nebula 78 is returning to the American airwaves (and the Internet) to promote State Farm’s services to the Chinese market. The Tsuburaya team flew from Japan to Southern California with their suits and expertise to shoot the campaign and I was there.

At the catering table, I chatted with a Tsuburaya business rep and trainer about what’s happening with the Ultraman franchise these days, as well as what it was like to wear the suit back in the day. Of course, I also snagged time for some pictures with the commercial’s star, Ultraman Neos, a close relative to the costumed hero of my youth and pop culture’s missing link between Superman and Godzilla!


What do you do at Tsuburaya?
I’m a Tokyo-based sales guy who brings Ultraman to other countries.

Did you grow up as an Ultraman fan?
No, because Ultrman didn’t have a TV series from 1980 to 1996. I watched Kamen Rider and Power Rangers, instead.

But there were still stickers, puzzles, and toys. Ultraman is all over Asia! Can you talk about Ultraman’s popularity among Asians?
He is very popular because Asia doesn’t have its own hero and we’ve been showing since the seventies. So people in their thirties, forties, and fifties are familiar with the character. I think that’s why Ultraman is still popular today in all age groups.

What sorts of licensing are you doing in Asia right now?
Right now we’re doing a Happy Meal campaign with McDonald’s. We don’t do alcohol, medicine, drugs, or adult products.

How often is new Ultraman material produced?
We do not produce a TV series every year but try to make a movie or series every other year so people don’t forget about us.

Is it important to keep the costumes, puppetry, and miniature sets that Ultraman is known for instead of using cg for special effects?
Good question. The older generation wants to see the original style but the kids prefer computer graphics because the models don’t look real to them. Two years ago, we used both and there were pros and cons.

You don’t want to mess with a legend, but you need to please the kids.
It’s a challenge to decide to use both or one or the other. It’s very controversial. (more…)

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Show reviews: King Buzzo acoustic set at the Satellite plus A Minor Forest, Dum Dum Girls, Kevin Seconds, and SMIC2 with Baja Bugs, CH3, and Money Mark

King Buzzo played his first ever acoustic set at the Satellite last night and it was amazing. I really didn’t know what to expect when Scion announced the free show. Would it be Melvins Lite light? Were marshmallows going to be provided for “Kumbaya” moments? No way. It was heavy as shit, with Buzzo singing as if he heard the bone-crushing music of the Melvins in his fuzzy head while trying to break his acoustic axe’s unorthodox-tuned strings with every stroke. The badass set started with a super dark Alice Cooper cover and ended with my favorite Japanese psychedelic doom metal band’s namesake song, “Boris.” Somewhere in the middle of the show he previewed a cut off his upcoming album and surveyed a bunch of Melvins tunes. It was great. You had to be there–or not. There was a ton of SLR-wielding dudes filming the event so you should be able to check it out on the Scion AV site one of these days… Props to Tweak Bird for playing a far-out opening set. I arrived half-way through and was stuck in the back of the room, too far to take photos, but they ripped.


You might have noticed that the GR site went down a week or so ago. Here are some friends’ shows that were casualties but need to be on this blog…

Dum Dum Girls record release show at The Echo on January 28. I like the new LP but the new songs sound even better with the proper band propelled by my pal Sandy Vu’s killer chops and beats. Killer set of psychedelic pop goth with an extra dude added for bonus texture. I expect this lineup to be out of their collective minds by the time they hit Coachella.

A Minor Forest at The Satellite on February 8. Back in the day, drummer Andee Conners stayed at my house with J Church, P.E.E., and this band, A Minor Forest, which just got back together for some reunion shows. They were tighter, heavier, and more mathy than ever. Perhaps more fun, too. So great to seeing him and the dudes in action and hanging out on the sidewalk, as well as opener Rob Crow.

Kevin Seconds at Amoeba Hollywood on February 13. Okay, I don’t personally know the singer from 7 Seconds but Eloise is now part of the youth crew after attending the in-store commemorating his great new solo album. Accompanied by his wife Allyson and Kepi Ghoulie, the new songs aren’t meandering singer-songwriter stuff but brief, earnest bursts of energy that rip. Sound familiar?

Save Music in Chinatown 2 on February 9 at Human Resources. Our fundraising has now reached about $7,500 to put toward music education at Castelar Education in Chinatown. The lineup of our second benefit matinee was a dream for me:

DJ Adam Bomb from KXLU’s Bomb Shelter played first-generation L.A. punk and hardcore (Weirdos, Circle Jerks, X, Dils, Adolescents…) complemented by vintage 7″ singles from my friends from KCHUNG.

Hector Penalosa from The Zeros brought his Baja Bugs, the rippingest Beatles cover band ever–which channels the Plimsouls and Undertones as much as The Fab Four–then previewed  new solo work. Hector is a national treasure of O.G. punk rock, who has supported Save Music in Chinatown since the beginning.

Channel Three played an all-out, full-blast set of Posh Boy classics with guest stars Maria Montoya on “You Make Me Feel Cheap” and Tony Adolescent singing a rad cover of “California” by The Simpletones. Not only one of my favorite bands ever but some of the nicest dudes, who brought a huge crew to support the cause.

Money Mark was ditched by the guys that were supposed to play the matinee and instead brought a carload of vintage, junky, and discarded gear/treasures for a funky demo that got the little kids grooving and reminded adults how much fun music should be.

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The Missing Picture special screening at Art Theatre Long Beach

Cambodia finally has its first entry into the Academy Awards and the movie is now showing at the Art Theatre in Long Beach. In The Missing Picture, director Rithy Panh combines hand-carved figures with archival photos and footage to retell his experiences surviving the Khmer Rouge. The artful and affecting documentary is packed with style, intelligence, and heart, and there really is no other movie like it.

At a special screening on Saturday, March 1 at 3:00 p.m., the director will be on hand to introduce the movie and take part in a panel that also features producer Catherine Dussart, French narrator Randal Douc, and composer Marc Marder. Adding extra perspective are Chhom Nimol from Dengue Fever, Prach Ly from the Cambodia Town Film Festival, Anderson Le from the Hawaii International Film Festival, and yours truly. Moderating will be my friend Julia Huang from interTrend.

Check out the trailer, below, and get tickets at It’s the same price as a regular show even though you also get the panel discussion, a dance performance, and a reception with food and drink… Or reach out to me directly and I’ll see what I can do for you.

More press, in case you aren’t sold yet. Hope to see you there!

“Startlingly, Panh tells his story through a mixture of Khmer Rouge propaganda newsreels and little clay figurines. It was perhaps the only way of managing the devastating memories.” – The Guardian

“Panh’s remarkable new documentary works as a survivor’s testament, a film about memory and loss–and as a self-reflexive essay asking how atrocities should be depicted on screen.” – The Independent

The Missing Picture is personal and unexpected, a documentary that mixes media in an unusual way to very potent effect.” – The Los Angeles Times

“The film, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, uses miniature clay figures and archival newsreels to recount Mr. Panh’s childhood memories—the missing pictures of the title.” – The Wall Street Journal

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Adam Bomb

I met Pat Hoed when he was playing bass for Down By Law. It was after the Chemical People moved on as Dave Smalley’s backing band, and I recall that lineup playing at Jabberjaw as well as releasing a pretty great double 7 inch. Actually, I interviewed them for Flipside, too, and I fondly recall having pato and chips with Pat and Jaime Piña at Jaime’s pad after a Chems show…

Since then, our paths have continued to cross. Way back when it would be at the Hollywood Book and Poster booth at Comic-Con and then at underground wrestling events (where Pat did commentary as Larry Rivera) in the alley behind Mondo Video A-Go-Go on Vermont. Afterward, it was at Brujeria gigs (the Satanic drug-dealing Mexican death metal band in which he donned the bandana and sang as Fantasma, whom I interviewed along with Pinche Pinch for Giant Robot) and punk movie premieres (We Jam Econo, Filmage).

But what came to mind as I was setting up the next Save Music in Chinatown show was him playing vintage punk and hardcore records as Adam Bomb, his alias for the famous KXLU hardcore show, The Final Countdown. I can’t believe that my old friend and L.A. punk mainstay (who was in Nip Drivers, Left Insane, and a ton of other bands) said yes.

Really stoked that you’re contributing to our benefit! Did you go to punk shows in Chinatown back in the day?
Hello, glad to be a part of this! When those Chinatown shows were happening, I wasn’t able to drive. The Hong Kong Cafe seemed so far away. And out here in Los Feliz, I was alone on punker island. None of my friends wanted anything to do with this strange music so I was confined to shows at Baces Hall and the Other Masque that was on Santa Monica and Vine. Good times, man!

Last time I saw Adam Bomb in action was the closing of Track 16 with Middle Class and Meat Puppets. You played a great set. Do people ask you to come out and play records very often?
That was a great show and I thank Jordan and Dave of We Got Power for the opportunity to have played that one. I don’t get too many invitations these days. I also still play bass in quite a few bands so I think it’s hard for people to distinguish my true aim: bass or DJ? It would be nice to pick up some more DJ action but with so many people doing it these days, it’s tough. Maybe I need some “representation.”

How many bands are you in currently, anyway?
Right now there is The Golden Rulers, Black Widows, The Probe, and The Rush Riddle Orchestra. I’ll let you know if anything else comes along. I’ll never get tired of bass!

Do most people on the street know you as Adam, Pat, or Fantasma?
All three! I don’t mind it–but don’t forget Larry Rivera!

Anything else to add?
Really looking forward to this event, man! I’m down for anything that helps to further the efforts of music education in this city. And cheers to you for putting this together, Martin. See you on February 9!

Save some dough by purchasing advance tickets at the Eventbrite page and then check out the archives of Adam Bomb’s greatest Final Countown shows on KXLU featuring Venom, Suicidal Tendencies, The Circle Jerks, C.O.C., The Mentors, The Beastie Boys, and more. 

You can find out more about the man, the myth, my friend, at the links below:

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Money Mark

Of course, Money Mark was featured in the pages of Giant Robot mag many times and even played our big outdoor show in the streets of Little Tokyo with J Church and the Red Aunts. That must have been in 1995 or so. I still buy his records and go to his shows whenever I can, in recent years at JANM, The Troubadour, Amoeba, Spaceland (with the Mattson 2), and that HUF show with Tommy Guerrero, Ray Barbee, and Fredo Ortiz (where I shot the pics above and below). Mark’s bands and sets are always different but the music is as grooving as it is experimental and straight from the heart. His songs are impossible to dislike. He’s the reason why Check Your Head and Ill Communications are the heaviest Beastie Boys albums.

It was just a few weeks ago that I reconnected with Mark at the Troubadour, where Fredo’s Bongoloidz were playing a show. We caught up with each other regarding our gigs and our kids, and of course I mentioned that my wife and I started a series of DIY benefit concerts to raise money for music education at our daughter’s school. When he said that he’d play our show, I said no way. It’s too small. Then he said, “Really, I would.” (more…)

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Hector Penalosa from The Zeros

Of course, Hector Penalosa is best known as a member of The Zeros. The much-loved Chula Vista punk rock ‘n’ roll band played their first show on a bill with The Germs and Weirdos; was involved of the Elks Lodge riot show with The Go-Go’s, Plugz, and X; and opened for The Clash. But he’s also one of the nicest dudes ever. We began corresponding when he thanked me for reviewing a concert. Who does that? And then he began supporting the first Save Music in Chinatown show on his own. Not only did he encourage his friends to go, but he actually drove up from San Diego to attend it and brought some posters and a CD for the raffle. One of my musical heroes turned out to be one the coolest guys ever.

So how could I not ask him to take part in the second Save Music in Chinatown benefit? He’s going to play a set with his Beatles cover band, The Baja Bugs, which will be a blast, and then preview some new solo material. I’m super excited and honored that Hector is on the bill with Channel 3 and Money Mark, and hopefully this short Q&A will get you ready as well.

You headline some pretty big shows and just toured Japan. Why are you driving up to L.A. to play our little benefit?
To answer your question, it may seem like a little benefit but for the school children and the effect music can have on their lives, well, it’s a HUGE benefit in my eyes. I love to play and if I can help out with my musical capacities, why not?

Was the Zeros recent trip to Japan cool?
Tokyo was surreal! Sensory overload with the neon signs, gigantic video screens, loud audio, and lots and lots of people on the sidewalks. I was knocked out by it all.

Tomoko, the bass player of Supersnazz was our hostess after the Saturday night gig and we had so much fun. We went to a karaoke place and rented a room with three other musicians from the opening bands and had a blast for about an hour. I was in seventh heaven having the two brothers from Teengenerate on the bill.

The bands that played with the Zeros were really nice to us, and we all spent time together after the gigs at The Poor Cow Bar, owned by Fefe from Teengenerate. (more…)

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Save Music in Chinatown 2 preview: Channel Three’s Mike Magrann

Yes, it’s awesome to throw DIY benefit shows to raise money for music education my daughter’s elementary school and great to help the community where my grandparents and in-laws have hung out. But on a purely selfish level, it gives me an excuse to work with some of my favorite bands and people. So while I have Mike Magrann committed to playing our February 9 show at Human Resources, I figured I’d ask him the latest about Channel 3. They were OG punks on Posh Boy records, they were on not one but two Rodney on the ROQ compilations, and now they are playing Save Music in Chinatown. Rad!

CH3 seems to be playing more than ever. How did this run of shows begin?
As we grow more, ahem, mature it is a lot tougher to get us four guys together for a weekend jaunt or two-week tour but we do okay. And it seems that playing out a lot breeds more gigs, ya know? If we can make a point to hit certain cities or go to Europe each summer, then we can count on the shows being a little better next time through. A few more familiar faces and–most importantly–we know the good places to eat!

You’ve been touring with friends, playing festivals, and getting your portrait done by the dude who draws Allroy and Milo. Why are you playing our rinky dink benefit?
Ha! It’s all due to the persistent nagging of one Martin Wong! But it’s actually an honor to be able to put your music to a good use, and music education is something near and dear to our hearts. Kimm and I, who are famously friends since second grade, always shared a love of music growing up and we actually learned to play guitars together at an after-school program in seventh grade.

Besides, it’s always nice to play at venues out of the norm.  I mean, we’ve played enough 1 a.m. sets at mildewy dive bars to last a lifetime. Let us do a matinee with cookies and coffee once in a while, for God’s sake!

Did your band play much in Chinatown back in the day? Got any stories?
We played at Wong’s Chinatown venue once but it was well after its prime. But we did play a lot at Esther’s Santa Monica venue, where she would always chase us out of the kitchen for making out with girls and trying to steal beer!

Our first-ever gig after making the Posh Boy EP was across town at the Brave Dog on 1st Street…

Whenever I Google Channel 3 or look up the hashtag on Instagram, I always see Thai TV starlets. Do you know anything about that scene?
I know, right? All I know is we get an awful lot of posts on our Facebook page in Lanna and Lao script! I don’t know what the hell they’re saying but a fan’s a fan, even if they do think they’re logging onto their fave soap opera page!

Looking back, pre-Interweb, it was a pretty bad idea naming the band CH3. You Google us and we always come up on page 2 after Methyl compounds of hydrogen and Thai television stations. Although we are able to get some pretty cool T-shirts from the local CH3 news teams throughout the Midwest, so there’s that…

Check out the very funny Channel Three blog HERE.

And get advance tickets to the show HERE.

Then watch some video below…

See ya at the show!

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Show reviews: X live at the Whisky a Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip, It’s Casual and Bongoloidz at The Troubadour, Chain and the Gang at The Smell’s 16th birthday celebration, International Swingers at Farmers Market

I’d forgotten what a great venue The Whisky is. Big stage but small room with decent sound and a balcony means that pretty much every spot is good. So it’s cool the once proud venue (I saw the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Descendents, Scratch Acid, SNFU, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and so many other awesome shows there in the ’80s and ’90s, but before that the likes of The Doors, Love, and Jimi Hendrix would play there) is booking some of its most loved bands to celebrate its 50th anniversary. With a storied headliner like X on the marquee, I don’t know why anyone would feel the need to hire tatted up go-go dancers to entertain us, though.

First up was The Crowd. Who knew that one of the earliest and best HB punk bands was opening? I had no idea but as soon as they started off their set with “Living in Madrid” (off the essential Beach Blvd. compilation) it all came back. Geography and perhaps a last-second booking meant the five-piece was cut to four but the band had no problems going for the gusto. Great set, and yes they played “Modern Machine.”

X is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve seen them a lot since their New World Tour stop at Magic Mountain. Over the last few years, I’ve seen them more than ever and it seems like they keep getting darker, from the extra combative vocals to the dueling axes. I was trying to figure out if Exene was struggling since she was nursing a plastic cup for the first few songs and rested on the stairs during the drum solo of “Hungry Wolf,” but she powered through the set as otherworldly and awesomely as always. John Doe did most of the rocking and the talking, saying that if it were a few years ago the band would invite everyone over for a house party. Later on, Exene said that she thinks of Johnny Rivers, and not X, when she thinks of the Whisky. (Of course, Billy Zoom just smiled.) Cool to have people talking about excellent shows at the Whisky (and playing them) instead of lame pay-to-play shows, and I hope it stays that way after the 50th anniversary run is over. (more…)

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Agenda Long Beach 2014: Babes, Dudes

I used to like attending ASR at the San Diego Convention Center. It was a great chance to see friends in the skateboarding world trapped under the same roof, and we got a couple of Giant Robot articles that way.  Of course the action sports retail trade show was famously ditched by vendors who refused to be gouged by the show’s organizers, but these days it’s been somewhat  replaced by a streetwear version. I’d never attended an Agenda show, but my friend Sophia Chang suggested I check out this week’s Long Beach event since she had curated a group exhibition for it. The Babe Show was totally worth the registering, driving out, and braving the crowd. It was a cool mix of familiar favorites (Deanne Cheuk, Esther Pearl Watxon, and Sophia) and artists that are new to me (Eri Wakiyama, Chocomoo). If you’re attending on Wednesday, definitely visit it at Booth E37.

Right around the corner from Sophia’s show is Keep Company. Can’t miss the puppies and kittens at my friend Una’s indie vegan shoe booth. She says the new kitten print (above, right) is her most-liked Instagram subject ever, but I kind of like the desert boots.

So cool to see pals like Una and Sophia ruling at what they do at the trade show. But I have to say Agenda is largely a sausage party in the ASR tradition. And it’s one of the best. I caught Justin, Mike V., and Drew at the Resource Distro booth. Buyers were pretty stoked on the gnarly new Elephant decks and Paris trucks. (more…)

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Show reviews: The Muffs at The Satellite; Bill Bartell Tribute with Redd Kross, Adolescents, Germs; Weirdos and Middle Class at The Echoplex

We get to see some pretty rad shows here in Los Angeles. Of course, the thing is that you have to leave your house on cold (about 50 degrees, for us) winter nights and sometimes it even drizzles. Yeah, it’s rough. But how can I not see a rare show by The Muffs when they’re playing about two miles away just on the other end of the Silver Lake Reservoir? (more…)

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Celebrating 100 episodes of Los Angeles Nista

Congratulations to my friend Eddie Solis on his 100th episode of Los Angeles Nista. I was already a big fan of his heavy-as-hell skate rock band, It’s Casual, when he started the Internet radio show, Los Angeles Nista, in November 2012. Of course, the program is all about his hometown–the neighborhoods, the subcultures, the public transportation of L.A. I was honored to be an early guest, on the heels of local heavyweights such as Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, and Ed Colver. A couple of weeks ago I was on the show once more, with the mic still warm from Tony Alva and Lee Ving. How did I crack a rotation like that, anyway?

It’s a big deal that Eddie broadcast his 100th episode last week, with topics that include food, history, art, and tourism as well as punk rock and skateboarding. And on top of that, It’s Casual is headlining a free show at the Troubadour on Monday, January 6. Sounds like a good time to catch up with the man. (Photos courtesy of Adam Murray.)

MW: You recently passed your 100th episode. Did you treat the milestone as something special or is just another show?
ES: I treated it as a milestone. I had to hit it out of the park. My in-studio guest was Hunter Burgan (bass player of AFI) and Ryan Seaman (drummer of Falling in Reverse and I Am Ghost). The co-host is Efrem Schulz (Death by Stereo).

MW: What are some things that you’ve learned or ways that you’ve grown as a host since the first episode?
ES: Don’t be so rigid. Be  intuitive. As Bruce Lee says, be like water. And research, share, and find commonalities that connect people.

MW: Now that you have this sizable body of work, do you recognize any categories or trends? 

ES: Good question. Yes, the categories of los Angeles nista are geography, destination and a curriculum on how to be car-free in Los Angeles, California. The trend being everything is connected.

MW: What’s your secret to cranking out this many episodes this quickly, without burning out or running out of ideas?
ES: This is my secret: I come from the world of skateboarding. It’s not a team sport. You draw inspiration from within. You get up every morning, create a vision, and then take the necessary steps to make that vision a living, breathing reality. You create your world. I apply these ideals to everything in life. A past in-studio guest, Salman Agah, professional skateboarder and owner of Pizzanista! and calls it the “skater’s advantage.” You don’t rely on others to motivate you. Everything you do is out of a passion and love for it. You cannot do things with such conviction, confidence, and authority unless you love it. The passion and love lead to endless motivation. The motivation leads to a full tank of gas. That’s how I keep it fresh and full of ideas!

MW: The topic of Los Angeles can go on and on. Can you share some dream stories that you’d like to address?
ES: Well put, Martin. There is an endless amount to talk about. Dream stories, yes indeed. I wanna highlight and tell Art Laboe’s story. Bobby Castillo and I wanna use Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and the late Johnny Ramone–three mega New Yorkers who came here and never went back–as examples why L.A. is better than New York City. It’s an ongoing debate, but to me they can provide testimonial as to why L.A. is a better place to live. If Gene and Paul can testify, that will end the debate. Everything goes back to KISS.

MW: Meanwhile, It’s Casual is going strong. Tell me about your new record label as well as the upcoming show at the Troubadour…. Bongoloidz is an inspired choice as an opener!
ES: Thanks. My label Stoked Records is inspired by the eclectic taste of Greg Ginn and SST, and all genres will be released. And It’s Casual is stronger than ever. Our last show was with Black Flag at The Vex back in July. We played in front of 1,000 people. Now we’re headlining the Troubadour for the second time and the show is free.

Check out Los Angeles Nista at, including my recent episode on Chinatown and Save Music in Chinatown.

It’s Casual plays the Troubadour on Monday, January 6. Get your free tickets (just three bucks if you’re under 21) at the venue site.

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Show Reviews: Save Music in Chinatown, Paisley Underground Reunion at the Fonda, Redd Kross at the El Rey, ASG at The Satellite, Channel 3 at Alex’s Bar

Photo: Ben Clark

I would have written about Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown matinee at Human Resources earlier but I’ve been busy writing thank-you letters to friends, helpers, and supporters. The first DIY benefit gig that my wife and I organized to raise funds to pay for music education at our daughter’s school, Castelar Elementary, was awesome and Bob Forrest was a perfect start. (more…)


Save Music in Chinatown on Sunday, December 8!

Remember when my daughter Eloise modeled infant clothing in Giant Robot ads? Now she’s the poster child for a series of benefit concerts that my wife (and GR mag graphic designer) Wendy Lau and I are starting. Our first show takes place this Sunday–a matinee that brings together Chinatown’s punk rock heritage and art gallery scene to benefit the mostly immigrant neighborhood’s kids and community.

Links to info and ticking:

Thanks for checking it out, sharing, and supporting however you can!



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